It\u2019s getting harder to find people to design, build and manage data centers.\nThe sector is facing a staffing crisis, said Andy Lawrence, executive director of research at Uptime Institute, which just released its annual data-center survey. \u201cWe all know that that the data-center skills shortage is real. I think what we\u2019re seeing in this data is that it\u2019s getting a little worse,\u201d Lawrence said.\n\nLearn more about network jobs\n\nWhat\u2019s hot in network certifications\nHow to boost collaboration between network and security teams\n SDN, programmable networks change the role of network engineers\n Top storage skills to boost your salary\n\n\nThis year, 61 percent of respondents said they've had significant difficulty retaining or recruiting staff, up from 55 percent last year.\n\u201cIt\u2019s ever present,\u201d said Chris Brown, CTO of Uptime Institute, of the people problem. Skills that are in short supply range from facility staff to IT to security operations teams. Outreach is needed, he said. The industry is going to have to work harder to increase recruiting efforts and spread the word about its high-growth prospects. \u201cIn the data-center industry, we really haven\u2019t marketed out to the society at large, who we are, what we are, how important we are, what careers are available, and that those careers are here to stay,\u201d Brown said.\n\u201cThe data-center industry is largely invisible," agreed Rhonda Ascierto, vice president of research at Uptime Institute, as the group\u00a0unveiled its research findings. People don\u2019t often realize that when systems and applications are running in the cloud, there\u2019s a physical infrastructure that makes it possible. \u201cThere\u2019s a very low awareness of that, generally speaking, across the general population,\u201d Ascierto said. Meanwhile, unemployment rates range from 3 percent to 5.5 percent in countries that host the most data centers; competition for talent will be intense, globally, for the foreseeable future, she said.\nContributing to the staffing crisis is a lack of workplace diversity. In particular, the Uptime Institute\u2019s research highlights a significant gender imbalance: 25 percent of managers surveyed have no women among their design, build or operations staff, and another 54 percent have 10 percent or fewer women on staff. Only 5 percent of respondents said women represent 50 percent or more of staff.\nYet most respondents don\u2019t seem to think there\u2019s anything deterring women from working where they work. A majority (85 percent) said it\u2019s easy for women to pursue a career in their respective organization\u2019s data center team or department; just 15 percent said it\u2019s difficult.\nReferring to the data-center industry as a whole, respondents were less confident about women\u2019s employment prospects: 53 percent said it\u2019s easy for women to pursue a career in data centers, and 47 percent said it\u2019s difficult.\nIn the big picture, diversity issues could become a threat to business operations. \u201cStudy after study shows that a lack of diversity is not just a pipeline issue,\u201d Ascierto said. Lack of diversity also can lead to technical stagnation, generate negative publicity, and potentially contribute to a loss of market share, she said.\n\u201cThis is a business issue,\u201d she said. \u201cWe have an industry that\u2019s struggling to fill open positions \u2013 and we have a lot of data on that \u2013 and yet, half the workforce isn\u2019t being targeted.\u201d\nThere are initiatives underway, particularly among some of the largest data-center operators, to hire outside the traditional staffing routes, Ascierto said. It\u2019s important that efforts to attract a more diverse workforce \u2013 to actively recruit not only women but also other underrepresented populations \u2013 continue to ramp up across the entire industry, she says.\nHow AI will impact data-center staffing\nUptime Institute\u2019s research also touched on the anticipated impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on staffing. When asked if they believe AI will reduce data-center operations staffing levels in the next five years, 29 percent of respondents said yes, and 29 percent said no. The remaining 42 percent said yes, but that it will take more than five years for AI to really make an impact on staffing.\nAscierto agreed the impact of AI on staffing will be gradual. Today, most AI is being applied to existing functions and processes in the data center, such as improving real-time alerting. And while AI is beginning to be used in a semi-automated way, humans with domain expertise are required to validate AI-generated recommendations with any level of confidence, Ascierto said.\nMeanwhile, data-center growth isn\u2019t going to slow down. In five years time, \u201cAI may not necessarily reduce staffing needs, but it will help the industry keep pace with staffing requirements,\u201d Ascierto said.\nUptime Institute's annual data-center survey covers topics including efficiency, resiliency, workload placement, climate change, staffing, and new technology adoption. The 2019 survey was conducted in March and April of this year, and 1,100 data-center operators responded.